Saturday, July 26, 2014

Quick & inexpensive domed houses made of inflated concrete

While I usually write about things more electrical and computer technology based, I was so enamored by these "Binishells" which are inflated partial or full domed structures, that I wanted to bring it to the attention of my readers.

What's so impressive about them besides their blinding fast construction speeds and cheap price tag?

They are also very "green" environmentally speaking, and in my opinion beautiful.

I also find Binishells intent to use the technology to help the poor and those who have been misplaced by natural disasters and other more malevolent reasons very heart warming.

I know at first glance of this picture it looks like a toy play set or a hollywood movie shoot location, but this is real.

Above is a better look at what the house looks like in reality. (You can click on these images to enlarge them).

Here's what Joseph Flaherty of had to say about the humanitarian side of Binishells:

""Called "Binishells," each building starts as a two-dimensional shape on the ground, ringed by a wooden form into which an air bladder, reinforcing steel rebar, and a load of concrete is placed. As the concrete sets, an air pump fills the bladder and a concrete dome begins to rise from the Earth." -NICOLÓ BINI

Covering a balloon with papier-mâché, letting it harden, and popping it to leave behind a delicate empty shell is a grade school arts and crafts tradition. For architect Nicoló Bini it’s a technique that’s become a guiding obsession, and which he believes could transform architecture in the developing world. His “Binishells” combine concrete and heavy-duty balloons to create visually stunning, structurally sound, domed domiciles.

Each Binishell starts as a two-dimensional shape on the ground, ringed by a wooden form into which an air bladder, reinforcing steel rebar, and a load of concrete is placed. As the concrete sets, an air pump fills the bladder and a concrete dome begins to rise from the Earth. An hour later, the concrete has hardened, the bladder is deflated, removed for reuse, and the building’s soaring shell is ready for inspection and interior construction. The concept is bizarre, combining a building material from the time of Julius Caesar with a Jetsons aesthetic, but the approach has already worked before.

Binishells were pioneered by Dr. Dante Bini, Nicoló’s father, and the first Binishell, which popped up in 1964, is still standing. All told, over 1,600 Binishells have been built in 23 countries across the globe, including gymnasium-sized shells 120 feet in diameter and tiny bubble-shaped bungalows in the developing world. “Binishells have survived even extreme environments—such as the lava, ash and constant earthquakes on Mount Etna—for almost 50 years,” says Nicoló. The younger Bini is reviving the technique as a way to provide low-cost housing for refugees and displaced people, but believes Binishells could be used and to fabricate schools, military bases, sports stadiums and generally provide architects with a cost-effective way to explore convex construction.

Unlike traditional low-cost, temporary disaster relief shelters, Binishells are intended to be permanent fixtures. The technique is speedy and, according to Bini, costs start at just $3,500. A cluster of Binishells might look like a sci-fi film set, but the materials to build one could be found on any job site. “Aside from some special additives, our concrete mix can be sourced locally almost anywhere,” says Bini. “Similarly our reinforcement is the same rebar you find sitting on the shelf of supply stores around the world.”

Binishells could be a compelling alternative to current disaster relief housing which is usually intended to be temporary, often end up as shanty ghettos. Concrete fabrication makes passive solar heating an easy option, reducing drain on strained infrastructure. The domed shape is naturally aerodynamic providing some protection from hurricanes. A gentle curvature and low roof height allow green roofs to be planted and easily tended. “With 25% of the world’s population living in sub-standard shelters, this is where we feel we can have the most impact,” says Nicoló."

Personally I would love one of those small homes. I have always wanted a small "cozy" home, and I love the open feeling of the bench in the front and an option for a grass roof.

I'd love a blue one.

But Binishells does more than just these types of structures.

Here's some pictures from their website,

I personally believe this is a brilliant idea. And using these natural bubble type shapes and concrete brings many great structural values as well.

For more information, check out

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Elon Musk of SpaceX to build spaceport

You got to love larger than life characters, and Elon Musk definitely fits in the "Larger than life" category.

Elon's company, SpaceX states this in their about page at

"SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets."

SpaceX isn't just boasting. There have been news headlines such as:

July 14, 2014

Falcon 9 Launches ORBCOMM OG2 Satellites to Orbit

Today, SpaceX executed a successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. This is the tenth consecutive successful launch of the Falcon 9.

July 11, 2014

Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights

The Air Force has certified SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch system as having conducted three successful flights, a prerequisite for companies seeking to win business from the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program.

May 18, 2014

CRS-3 Mission Overview

On April 18, 2014, Falcon 9 and Dragon began the CRS-3 resupply mission to the International Space Station. This mission marked Dragon’s fourth visit to the space station and third official cargo resupply mission for NASA.
 Many More can be found at

All this activity, and the new news that SpaceX has been cleared to create their own space port in Texas prompted The Register to write an article aptly named "Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT".

Here's the enlightening article thanks to Richard Chirgwin writer for The Register.

"Elon Musk has taken another step in his transformation into James Bond supervillain, with the FAA granting SpaceX approval to start building its own spaceport in Texas.

The FAA has issued a “Record of Decision” (PDF here) stating its support for the issuing of licenses to SpaceX.

The facility, to be built near Brownsville, Texas, will mean that SpaceX will one day be able to conduct launches without relying on Cape Canaveral in Florida.

As the Orlando Business Journal notes, while some SpaceX launches will remain at Cape Canaveral even after the new spaceport is built, the move will slow down “the Space Coast's transition to be the hub for all commercial space activity”.

The news comes as SpaceX celebrates a nearly-successful launch: a Falcon 9 rocket delivered Orbcomm six satellites to orbit, but the company was unable to recover the booster as it had intended.

Musk maintained a metaphorical wry grin at the failure, Tweeting:

The launch had been delayed by two months. The Orbcomm satellites will be part of an eventual 17-bird constellation." -The Register

Thanks again goes to The Register and her staff for being informative and simultaneously entertaining.

Within a year we will have seen Pluto close up. Now I am wondering if in ten years I will be able to book a vacation to Mars on hotwire or expedia.

That might all be wishful thinking, but if Elon gets his way, it will happen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

LG's new flexible see through display

"Not content with making the world’s biggest bendy OLED TV, LG has thrown a different curve entirely with its roll-up OLED display.

The 18-inch flexible panel has a 1280 x 810 resolution and uses a film of high-performance plastic called polyimide to give it its flexibility.

The screen can be rolled up to a curvature radius of around 3cm without loss of function – needless to say, the idea of a digital roll-up newspaper hasn’t been lost on the designers. But whether you’d be carrying the 60-inch version to the bog in 2017 – when the company suggests the kit could be on sale – is another matter.

Yet with the new roll-up, LG Display full color panel, one of its unique benefits is you can see through it when it's not being used. Thanks to its transparent pixel technology, it delivers 30 per cent transmittance, which the company expects to increase to 40 per cent when its larger panels are rolled out.

Besides flexibility, transparency is set to be a major selling point." -The Register

While I think the technology is impressive, why would I want a TV, monitor or tablet I can see through?

Personally I don't see why that's such a big selling point.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Amazon seeks permission to fly drones

Amazon sent a letter to the FAA recently requesting permission to start flying drones for the purpose of testing.

The FAA isn't prepared for Amazon to use the drones for the delivery of packages yet, but the FAA has been directed to allow drones to be flown for testing purposes.

Amazon's "Vice President of global public policy" Paul Misener, stated that they are already on their eighth and ninth generation drones.

Amazon has been researching drone use in Seattle but it needs special permission to start testing the drones for outdoor use.

Amazon hopes it's "Amazon Prime Air" program, will be able to deliver items to customers "in 30 minutes or less".

Amazon's drones will be able to carry 5 pound packages at 50 miles an hour.

Five pounds doesn't sound all that impressive, however Amazon says that 5 pound packages cover 86% of all the items they ship.

"Many were originally skeptical of Bezos' drone plan, since the announcement first came just before the 2013 holiday season, leading many to think Bezos was just trying to put Amazon in people's heads." -Jill Scharr for Tom's Guide

But as Jill states in her article, Amazon has made great strides and they are quite serious about having drones deliver packages.

So what do you think? As interesting as this all is, it does pose questions.

1) is this just another way to offer less jobs for humans, as robotics and computers take over even more paying jobs?

2) how safe will air travel be if thousands or millions of drones fill the air?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Switch to Linux Saved Munich Tens of Millions

I reported on Munich's switch from Microsoft products to 100% open source software some time ago.

It was amazing news then, a whole municipality totally dropping their independence on closed source payware. (Microsoft products, mostly.)

Just this January I wrote an article about how the Italian province of Umbria had also made the switch from Microsoft Office to Libre Office.

In February it was my priveledge to write about how the UK government decided to use the Open Document Format. (A LibreOffice format, among others)

Now it's my wonderful delight to tell you that the brave move to an open source platform has officially saved Munich tens of millions of euros.

Here's Canonical's press release, thanks to




Munich is the third-largest city in Germany, with approximately 1.5 million inhabitants. The local governing body employs more than 33,000 people – 16,000 of whom use PCs as part of their daily roles. Those computers are located at different sites and their users have widely differing needs. In 2001, there were 22 organisational units, each of which controlled its own IT resources. Client software versions, patch management, shared directories and user permission policies varied across the organisation.

With Windows NT approaching its end-of-life deadline and Windows XP due to follow, an alternative was needed to the enforced cycle of large-scale software upgrades; an alternative that could satisfy the city’s myriad requirements:
  • Wide range of applications
  • Interoperability with other platforms
  • Regularly updated hardware support
  • Low management overhead
  • Freedom from vendor lock-in.



Open source software was not necessarily an obvious choice. Much of the city’s software infrastructure used Microsoft technologies, from Microsoft Office macros written in Visual Basic, to applications that relied on the Windows operating system.

There was no doubt that in the short term, it would have been easier for the City of Munich to remain with Microsoft, but after extensive research and consideration of both the short term and long term effects, the decision was made to pursue an open source solution. The question then became about which specific technologies to adopt.

Due in part to the complexity mentioned above, it soon became clear that this would not be a simple desktop migration. This was to be a re-organisation of the city’s entire IT infrastructure.

The ensuing “LiMux” project would span many years and nothing like it had been undertaken before. There was no best practice or precedent and the solution would need to evolve as the project progressed. With so much public money at stake, it was vital that stakeholder commitment was secured and maintained – especially as the eyes of the technology world were watching.

Seeing the project as a potential catalyst for more similar migrations, Microsoft lobbied hard to derail it. At one point, CEO Steve Ballmer cut short a holiday to fly to Munich and meet with the mayor in person.



The first iteration of the project saw Debian deployed in 2006. But a more predictable update cycle was required and, with a policy of tendering for new hardware suppliers every four years, the promise of ongoing support for a wider range of devices. So, in 2009, the city switched to Ubuntu.

With the need to sustain political backing throughout the process, blogs and newsletters were used to keep stakeholders up-to-date, while explaining the change in platform to users and support staff. Forums were set up to enable stakeholders to voice their concerns and ask questions.

Processes were established to manage user requirements, develop new LiMux releases and test them before roll-out to user workstations.



By the end of 2012, the LiMux project had reached its main goal: to migrate 12,000 workstations to Linux (a deployment now numbering 14,000 PCs).

The switch from from proprietary software to open source has saved the city more than €10 million – a figure that accounts for both the hire of external companies to implement solutions and the internal man-hours the city has invested in management, training and testing. By 2012, €6.8 million had been saved on Microsoft licensing alone.

By August 2013, the cost of the entire project had reached €23 million, compared with an estimated €34 million just to upgrade to Windows 7 and new versions of Microsoft Office.

According to Peter Hofmann, project manager for the City of Munich; “The LiMux/open source project was a long and iterative one, but after a few years of running such a large Linux base, we realised Ubuntu was the platform that could satisfy our requirements best.

By combining the low costs and freedom of open source software with ongoing support for the hardware and applications we need, it was one of the critical elements to the success of this project. Most important was the backing of our politicians throughout the project.”